Ethical Education in the Danish Military

Nick Muren, Dana Roman, Tiitta Virtanen & Bettina Jørgensen

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project is an investigation of the merits and the applicability of ethical education in the Danish military for the soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. As an essential element in the research, we use the theory of Just War which draws on laws of conduct in warfare that are seen to be universal from a western perspective and which then lays the basic ground for military education in general. This theory is used in the context of the asymmetrical nature of the war that is taking place in Afghanistan and the different ethical dilemmas that the soldiers experience when engaging in combat with an enemy who is very difficult to distinct from and hide behind civilians. This is important as to see which other factors, like personal ethics, cultural upbringing and individual notions of the Afghan people as ‘the other’, play in when taking ethical decisions. The empirical material of the project consists of qualitative interviews that were conducted at the Antvorskov Kaserne in Slagelse on May 2nd 2012 with three Danish soldiers that have formerly been deployed to Afghanistan. The interviews consist of three main topics of discussion, namely ethics, the undergone military ethical education and Afghans as the ‘cultural other’. The soldiers’ answers and standpoints are subsequently analyzed and discussed in connection to our cardinal question on ethics education and its utility and through the lenses of Just War Theory, the notion of the cultural other and asymmetrical warfare. What we can conclude through our research is that the military ethical education material’s emphasis on the personal character of the soldier in ethical decision-making is contradicting with the fact that the military bases its teaching mainly on duty ethics in the form of rules of engagement. Since so many other important parts of military training are seemingly conducted in a far more thorough manner, like rules of conduct or physical training, we conclude that the army is too inadequately equipping the soldiers with useful decision tools in situations where questions of conduct cannot primarily be answered by asking oneself whether the action is legal within the frictional areas of Just War Theory and asymmetric warfare. The answer to why this might be, our conclusion is that under the conditions of war in general and asymmetrical warfare in particular, unethical decisions are called for but not spoken out loud, as it makes it difficult to morally excuse actions, thus making it impossible to address and account for in an educational perspective within the army.

UddannelserKultur- og Sprogmødestudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato24 maj 2012